Willard R. Custer
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Willard Ray Custer

Willard Ray Custer

From the Popular Science website (http://www.popularscience.com):

"Salute to the Tinkerer"

"Short-field takeoff and landing was the objective a quarter-century ago. The innovative solution, developed by Willard Custer of Hagerstown, Maryland, was the channel wing, the technique of placing a pusher prop in a semiducted flying surface. The vacuum produced by this configuration literally sucked air over the wings and plucked the craft off the field. Stall speed was also reduced. But the aircraft failed to find a market."
Note: While we appreciate the praise, the statement that the aircraft failed to find a market is not accurate. In fact, in 1956 a consortium of oil companies and ranchers in Texas and California wanted CCWs so badly that they formed their own company to build them under license. Nor was this the only market. Then, in August 1960, Willard received his first order with a $10,000 deposit for 20 CCW-5s.
Willard married Lula E. Jackson. Lula bore four children: Harold "Curley", Vivian (married name, Foltz), Helen (married name, Bock), and Kenneth "Reed". They resided in Hagerstown, Maryland. Curley would become famous along the Eastern seaboard as a square dance caller and was Willard's test pilot. He has logged more hours flying the Channel Wing than any other man alive. Helen would be Willard's secretary until he died, and Reed would be Willard's chief mechanic at least until the 1960s. Willard's older brother Cecil supported him in his Channel Wing effort.
Early Christmas morning 1985, Willard Custer died of old age at his home in Hagerstown, Maryland. Click here to read his obituary. He preceded his wife in death and was buried in Hagerstown's Rest Haven Cemetery.